CHICAGO — UIC played a competitive 20 minutes, but the second half of Wednesday night’s game was all Oakland. After trailing by one point in the final seconds of the first half, the Golden Grizzlies (12-12, 7-2 Horizon) finished the period with a buzzer-beater and then opened the second half on a 15-0 run.
Oakland’s lead reached as many as 22 points in its 91-77 victory at the UIC Pavilion.
Last season, UIC (5-19, 1-8) contained Oakland forward Corey Petros. But this time Petros had his all way night inside.
The 6-foot-10 senior notched a career-high 34 points on 15-of-22 shooting and barely had to work against UIC’s weak defense. He also grabbed 13 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.
“We let Petros come in and do whatever he watned,” UIC coach Howard Moore said. “No resistance.”
Petros is a talented big man, but UIC made him look like an All-American on Wednesday. He consistently caught the ball within a few feet of the basket and often didn’t even have to put the ball on the floor in order to score.
As a whole, UIC’s defense left a lot to desire. Oakland scored 1.34 points per possession while shooting better than 60 percent from the field. The Golden Grizzlies also had 28 assists on 35 made baskets.
“You can’t let someone come to your home court and shoot 60 percent from the field on you,” Moore said. “This was one of the worst defensive efforts we’ve put together, period. We’ve got to bring it every night. Tonight we definitely didn’t bring it.”
Oakland’s high-powered offense also received great performances from sophomore point guard Kahlil Felder and freshman forward Jalen Hayes.
Felder continued to look like a Horizon League Player of the Year candidate, posting 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 7 assists and 5 rebounds. The 5-foot-9 guard continually carved up the Flames.
Hayes, a Freshman of the Year candidate in the Horizon League, scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but the most impressive part of his game was the way he distributed. Hayes dished out 10 assists, shattering his previous career-high of 3 dimes. He also had 3 steals and turned the ball over just once.
“(Allowing) 10 assists from their four-man. It’s just disrespectful to the game,” Moore said of his team’s poor defensive effort.
For UIC, guards Paris Burns (20 points, 9 assists) and Markese McGuire (16 points, 4-of-5 on 3-pointers) had to of their better games while senior forward Ahman Fells continued his surge into the Flames’ spotlight.
Fells registered 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds.
In his first three seasons, Fells never averaged more than 2.1 points per game. He was producing more early in his senior year but was still far from a star.
Now, in the last three games, he is averaging 22.3 points per game and shooting 73.5 percent from the field.
“It just comes from confidence and teammates and the coaching staff believing in me to make shots,” Fells said. “I’ve just been knocking them down for us.”
UIC now returns to the road, beginning a three-game trip Sunday at Detroit. By the end of this three-game swing, the Flames will have had a stretch with six of eight games on the road.